By Noemí Rodríguez Batanero
In recent years, environmental and protection groups have alerted political institutions to the enormous importance that intensive livestock production plays in the phenomenon of global warming. Millions of chickens and hens spend their lives in a folio-sized cage, pigs are crammed into crowds without access to a bed of hay, and cows, the largest methane producers in the animal world, are forced to produce more. and more milk.
European organizations such as the Eurogroup for Animals propose the introduction, in rural development programs, of measures to promote the extension of livestock farms, and of better management of pastures, as already maintained by the Commission on the Health Balance of the CAP. This would allow a greater number of farms to have the opportunity to allow the animals to graze, respecting their welfare, as well as the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of the landscape. Lower animal density would result in less methane released into the atmosphere in a given area. Farmers should also receive funds to convert farmland to pasture, and allow their livestock to be raised in natural conditions.
Likewise, it is necessary to make the public aware, and that consumers are better informed about the impact of animal production on climate change and can change their consumption habits, by reducing animal products in their diet or opting for the purchase of animal products from production systems with less impact on the climate. In fact, according to data provided by the Eurogroup for animals, a diet based on meat - as well as on other products of animal origin, such as eggs and milk requires between ten and twenty times more amount of cultivated land than a vegetarian diet . In countries like Belgium, initiatives such as "the weekly meatless day" are already being introduced.
The Public Treasury also plays an important role. As foreseen in the Communication Commission on Green Public Procurement of the European Union in 2008, food and catering services are a priority sector due to the enormous impact that intensive production of agricultural products has on the environment. The proposed solutions include obtaining products from organic farms and production systems that respect animal welfare. Organizations such as the National Association for the Defense of Animals (ANDA) believe that these solutions should be included in the Green Public Procurement strategies of the Member States as a way to support changes in the production systems of farms in the EU and , in this way, mitigate climate change.
However, and despite the declaration of intent made by the European Union to consider the fight against climate change as one of the new challenges of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the member countries are free to determine whether they include the livestock and agricultural sectors within their plans - derived from the Kyoto Protocol - to reduce emissions into the atmosphere.
But the impact of the livestock industry on climate occurs on a front hitherto forgotten by political institutions: long-distance livestock transport. It only takes one truck to transport 24,000 kilos of horse meat, while it would take more than 5 vehicles to transport the dozens of horses from which these carcasses would be obtained. This data, which can be applied in a similar way to other animals, shows that long-distance transport entails harmful environmental consequences due to the amount of polluting gases emitted by trucks that travel distances of thousands of kilometers, from Spain to Italy, Greece or Germany.
Spain should, therefore, develop its own industry that allows meat products to be sold with all their added value, and allow all the profits derived from them to remain in our country. Through the current production system, the farmer benefits by selling his products abroad. However, macroeconomically speaking, long-distance travel represents a plunder of wealth in the regions of origin, as the destination slaughterhouses appropriate the added value of the meat. In addition, farmers fall into dependence on livestock dealers and importers / exporters, who should not face if they could sell the animals to the Spanish industry. Several NGOs such as ANDA have been warning for years of the need to impose a maximum limit of eight hours for the transport of live animals to slaughterhouses.
Many voices in the trucking industry have replied that the impact of this limitation would be such that it could kill the business. However, these organizations stress that this argument does not justify maintaining an activity that is harmful to animals and the environment. "The key is to profoundly transform the production system", to go from quantity to quality, they argue.
The same solution could be given to avoid the economic and environmental cost of moving the millions of tons of crops necessary to feed livestock, and which come, in the case of Europe, from the other side of the planet. The voracious production of this foliage is having an impact on the destruction of the forests and the disappearance of precious and unique ecosystems. For this reason, a diet based on local pastures is again the most beneficial option.
However, we must not forget that, beyond the figures and percentages, of the economic advantages that we are letting pass, living beings travel inside these trucks. Animals that suffer physically and psychologically the consequences of human inefficiency. Let's think coldly what is best for us and, why not? What is best for them.
Noemí Rodríguez Batanero. Journalist of the National Association for the Defense of Animals